The Small Claims Tribunal has jurisdiction to hear and determine only all money claims of an amount not exceeding one thousand five hundred Maltese liri. Provided that in determining the sum referred to, no account shall be taken of fees and costs relative to the same claim. If the plaintiff claims payment of several sums due for the same cause, the value of the claim is to be determined by the total amount of the claims. If the plaintiff claims payment of several sums due for different causes, the value of the claim is determined by the highest sum, irrespective of the smaller claims. If the claim is for capital and interest, the value is determined by the aggregate of all the capital sums claimed, and the Tribunal shall have jurisdiction over the claim notwithstanding that the capital and interest claimed in their aggregate exceed one thousand five hundred Maltese liri.
Causes involving questions of ownership of immovable property, or relating to easements, burdens, or other rights annexed to such property, even though the claim does not exceed one thousand five hundred Maltese liri, and causes of ejectment or eviction from immovable property shall not fall within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.
The procedure is obligatory.
The Tribunal cannot transfer a Small Claims case to the ordinary procedure.
There are specific forms to be used in the small claims procedure and it is obligatory to use them.
In order to commence a claim the claimant will need to complete the “Notice of Claim” which is available with guidelines for completion by the claimant. Once the claimant completes the form he/she must file one copy to be kept by the Court and another for each defendant. The court will then send a copy to each defendant.
The defendant may then oppose the claim by filling in the “Reply” Form or the “Reply with Counterclaim” as the case may be. Both have guidelines for completion by the defendant.
If the defendant thinks that someone else should pay the claim, he shall, in his reply indicate that such other person should pay all or part of the claim and shall serve the third party with a “Notice to a Third-Party” Form together with a copy of the original claim, his reply and a blank reply form.
Since in a small claims procedure the parties may be assisted by any person and not necessarily by a lawyer or legal procurator, the whole proceedings are structured in a way so that they may be understood and followed easily. Especially where any of the parties is not assisted by a lawyer, the Adjudicator conducts the proceedings in a way that enables the said party to understand what is going on and what is required of the parties.
Moreover the Adjudicator may relieve any party who is not represented by a lawyer or legal procurator or any other professional representative, from the consequences of the failure to comply with any of the Rules regulating the procedures of the Tribunal, if it is shown that this was due to mistake, oversight or any other reason which the Adjudicator considers to be valid. In such cases the Adjudicator may make any order which he considers to be just.
If any of the parties choose not to be represented by a lawyer, he or she can be accompanied at the hearing by someone who can speak on his or her behalf. This person can be anyone the litigant chooses such as an accountant, a spouse, a relative, a friend or a co-worker.Each litigant will be responsible for paying the fees of the representative he appoints, irrespective of who wins the case.
Rules concerning the taking of evidence are more relaxed. For instance the Adjudicator is not bound by the rules of best evidence or the rules relative to hearsay evidence (as in ordinary proceedings) if the Adjudicator is satisfied that the evidence before him is sufficiently reliable for him to reach a conclusion on the case before him.Also in so far as possible the Adjudicator shall refrain from appointing expert evidence to avoid lengthening the proceedings.
There are restrictions on the reimbursement of costs. Costs shall be limited to the actual expenses directly made in connection with the case by the party in whose favour the payment of costs is awarded.
An appeal from a decision of the Tribunal shall be filed in the Registry of Courts by an application made to the Court of appeal within eighteen days from the date on which the Adjudicator delivered his decision. The appellant shall through the Registrar notify the other party or parties of the application of appeal. The defendant shall answer the application of appeal within eighteen days from the date on which the application of appeal is served on him. In these cases the Court of Appeal will be composed of only one judge.
Independently of the amount of the claim, an appeal shall always lie in the following cases: on any matter relating to the jurisdiction of the Tribunal; on any question of prescription; where the Tribunal has acted in a serious manner contrary to the rules of impartiality and equity according to law and such action has prejudiced the rights of the appellant. A right of appeal on all grounds shall also lie where the amount in dispute, exceeds five hundred Maltese liri.
Where the Court of Appeal finds that the grounds for appeal are justified it shall quash the decision of the Tribunal and shall itself determine the original claim or counter-claim.The Court of Appeal may, if it considers the application frivolous and vexatious, dismiss the appeal and order the appellant to pay a penalty which shall not be less than one hundred Maltese liri and not exceeding five hundred Maltese liri.
Last update: 21-03-2006